Futurama Comics #12
Title: Sideshow Fry
Writer: Eric Rogers
Art: John Delaney, Phyllis Novin, Joey Mason, Karen Bates
The twelfth issue is now in my hands, and features a futuristic circus. So step right up! Step right up for the following review, and find out whether this is the greatest comic off Earth, whether it should be tossed in the freak show, or whether it's somewhere in the middle. Behold the plot within! Wonder in amazement as your favourite characters get into another odd situation! Marvel at the review that will tell you whether this will be an entertainment extravaganza or not...
First of all, let's do the usual and run over the plotline. The crew go to see a circus, and while waiting for the show to start come across a freak show. Fry here reveals that he's got an "outie" as they call it, which is basically that his belly button sticks out. Apparently this trait was considered to be, as Leela puts it, "The O.J. Simpson of body parts" in their time. Fry is spotted by the circus' freak-show runner and he and the ring master capture fry as one of their own freaks, where upon he finds life isn't so bad and falls in love with a bearded woman. Meanwhile, Bender plots revenge on cannon-shooter extraordinaire The Unhuman Cannonball, aka a robot named Dewey whom Bender knew during his brief stint as a military cook. Jealous that Dewey took over his job unfairly, Bender seeks his justice by replacing him for the circus' main event.
Quite a bit going on then, huh? Well, the first comment I have to make is, this is a bit like the I, Roommate of the comics. If you're wondering what I mean by that, it's that it's a rather more straightforward story that doesn't use a lot of futuristic gimmicks and surreal strangeness that the series is famous for. In some ways, it's a very down-to-earth story. Quite simple, and one that could work easily even in a story set in modern day (i.e. our) times. There are a few exceptions, but most of the storyline and humour is directed from the whole circus atmosphere. In fact, 95% of the story is set there.
Does it work? Well, actually, it does work fairly well. Or at least to a point. And there's even two plots that end up coming together as well. The story makes sense in both cases, with Fry's antics regarding the circus and freak show very much suiting his personality, and the same going for Bender with his subplot. The timing is well done, and Eric Rogers certainly knew when to change scenes between plots and moments to properly keep the story flowing. In fact, after a while Fry's tale splits him away from the others, and then Leela gets her own part of the story when she tries to get Fry back home. Fry is definitely the focus here, and he faces a nice little moral dilemma that's very present, but never forced or in the reader's face. The main weakness is that the whole "outie" thing seems a weak premise to stem from. The crew only discovering it just then is not only extremely convenient, but also kind of dumb considering the amount of times in the show Fry's been around with his shirt off. Kind of a weak set-up to be honest. Also, there's a few odd errors that no Futurama writers/artist should make. Most notably the appearance of what is supposed to be Victor from Malfunctioning Eddie's car yard judging from the speech patterns and him even naming himself, but the person drawn is the ThunderCougarFalconBird Salesman instead.
The addition of the character of Katie the bearded woman is nice too, and she adds a nice element to the story. In fact, in a way, this is very much in with the Fry romance stories such as The Deep South, How Hermes Requisitioned his Groove Back and I Dated a Robot where we have Fry falling for a pretty girl with a strange quirk. It was a Mermaid, a dirty bureaucrat and a robotic celebrity before, now it's a girl with a beard. Fry acts very much like himself here, and both he and Katie's mutual attraction makes a lot of sense. Just like Fry sees Leela as being beautiful with her one eye, he looks beyond the beard and sees Katie in a similar fashion.
The humour is okayish, but nothing spectacular. I would even say it was a tad disappointing... not grossly so, as there are definitely come nice lines and pieces of character-humour. Still, there's a few flat lines, quite a lack of decent circus satire that could have been done better. There's a few too-obvious refs like the Star Trek one (Leela actually hires the original Enterprise...) and a whole lot of cheap and overused jokes as well. It could have done a lot worse, but it could have been a lot better too. It's... just average really. There's only really one great moment (see below) and the rest range from "mildly amusing" to "really weak."
Finally, the art. I'm afraid to say, it's a little poor. And, again, this seems to be because the main artist is John Delaney again. Like I've said in other reviews, he's not a bad artist... he can draw the characters. He just has problems keeping them on-model consistently, and his whole style is very rough and overly cartoonish/exaggerated. However, his art here definitely was an improvement over his previous issues, so maybe he's learning. The amount of times characters were off-model, as well as the degree to which they were off, was far less this time. It was more noticable with the original characters though, such as the Ring Master and Katie, who looks like fan-made characters inserted in with the mostly-on-model main cast. Still very much in Groening-style, but with those annoying little Delaney-styled quirks too that made just a smidge them out of place. I won't yammer on too much more about it... he's definitely improved here, so I'll have to give him a bit of kudos for that at least. Still... he should have been drawing perfectly from the start if arting for an official product such as this.
So, to summarise, this is basically what I'd call a nice issue that sits nicely in the middle. It's kind of average all around, and where it lacks a little in areas (like humour) it kind of evens out in others (like the character/emotional aspects). The story is a little more serois than most, and even has a nice little touch of emotion and something to think about regarding appearance not being everything and about helping your friends. Again, it's there, but not forced down your throat or anything, which is the best way to execute such things. There's even a little romance in there too. Characterisation is good, the plot flows pretty well and there's some intersting scenes and moments throughout. The art's a little off, there's a few niggles and the jokes can be a bit weak, but the whole thing overall is fairly well done. A nice average issue that is at least worth a read. If you're a big fan of Fry stories, especially the ones where he's involved with a woman with as strange quirk to her like in the episodes I mentioned above, then I'd highly recommend it. If you're a more casual Futurama fan, give it a glance and see how it suits you. There are better issues out there, but that's no reason this doesn't deserve a space on your shelf.
Most Memorable Moment: Farnsworth snatching the cup of "Fry's and Zoidberg's ashes" from Leela and telling her that it's his company so therefore his ashes, and then that he wants them to find a bag to put said ashes in so that he can fill the cup with a Slurm for the road.
Worst Moment: The Victor/ThunderCougarFalconBird mix-up.
- Kenneth White